Carp Fishing in Australia – My thoughts from the River

Common Carp

I am probably out there on the Carp debate. For international readers and some background, there are a lot of carp in Australia – well South Eastern Australia, think the Sydney area in my case. They were introduced about 150 years, like they have been in many places of the world.

My first issue is that if you do want to kill them at least show some respect, there is no exccuse for cruelty and sometimes just barbaric stunts. Apart from the obvious people that don’t even fish can see that sort of thing and it gives everyone a bad name. And in this day and age when there is a really determined crowd on animal welfare and all the rest, it is simply more fuel on the ban everything fire. In short show some commonsense and decency.

Next issue is Carp seem to get the blame for everything, can’t find my glasses and a Carp must have done it. Traffic accident and it was Carps fault. You get the idea. One of the more fashionable ones now is that the rivers are muddy because of Carp. That is borderline insane. Of course Carp stir up the bottom, but how did and does the silt get there in the first place? I have known the Hawkesbury-Nepean System fifty years now, and it is a real stretch to blame Carp for muddy rivers when you are driving past tilled and bare farms to get to the river in the first place.

In fact this issue has been known about for almost 200 years, the River was so silted up due to farming that river navigation was almost impossible to Windsor in the 1800’s when it was originally sailing ships taking the produce to Sydney. Maybe 250 years ago it was all crystal clear rivers and waterways, but those days are long gone. There are some other issues on land usage and runoff that I will probably go into another time.

My next thing is on out competing native species, which is probably true. Many of the Gudgeons for example come to mind. The Flathead Gudgeon for example seems to be a favourite food item of many native fish, but they prefer rocky bottoms like most Gudgeon. In fact I read a paper discussing how one the factors that helped saved Trout Cod from extinction was gazillions of carp fry for the surviving few to always find easy food. In a time when anything with a fin was fair game – except Carp. So Carp accidentally saved Trout Cod which humans had almost wiped out. Point is some of these interationships are not so simple.

Which brings up the last point. Anyone who thinks that Carp or Cane Toads Rabbits or Pigeons for that matter will be erradicated is delusional. Unleashing the plague on Rabbits did work at first – until the survivors were immune. Now we have rabbits back in force. Even the NCCP (National Carp Control Program) points out that for the millions it would cost, Carp numbers would only be reduced for 5-10 years. They also point out that some of the consequences of a virus release are unknown in terms of current wildlife that feed on Carp and if it would have adverse effects on other wildife and industries.

And for an Angler thinking that you have killed x Carp out of millions will make any difference is an easy way to make yourself feel better I suppose, but is practically useless. Why not take a kids net and get the Mosquito Fish while you are at it? Still if you are going to kill it, remember it is a living creature as said above.

So Okay I know I am probably controversial for pointing out the obvious which people don’t like to hear. Then what is the solution?

Proper Management…

The first part of that is accepting that Utopia is not going to happen. The lanscape has not been “natural” since any humans got involved. Whether that was original fire management of fish traps built into the rivers. Sure the impacts were much lesser on the whole – unless you were a giant Kangaroo and all those things that got wiped out. Either way restoring anything to prehistoric or prehuman is not going to happen when you have industrial estates backing onto rivers with picnic benches and crowds at the park a mile up.

With Carp specifically one of the best things that has happened in their management has been closed seasons and catch and release on Australian Bass. Bass being an apex predator on the SE Coast waterways are an easy way to keep Carp in check, that also benefits angling in general. Not leaving psuedo snares and rats nests of line by the river bank to kill birds which eat Carp would also be helpful.

Land management adjacent to watercourses is still pretty weak. If there are no silty bottoms in the first place Carp will move on naturally. We have created ideal environments for Carp and then complain Carp are doing well there. Much like Pidgeons, Rats and Ibis (Bin Chickens). People will say they are dirty and disgusting – hang on they are feeding on the mess people left in the first place…So the logic is wacky.

Carp themselves should be promoted for sport fishing. That is already happening to a degree as awareness is growing. But for example the Trout “industry” in NSW alone generates millions of dollars. The same could be done with Carp. We have some of the largest Carp in the world and serious Carp nuts would pay to come and fish for them.

I still find it strange that there is a “Bandwagon” if negativity regarding Carp. Sure they are not my first choice but they also do take the pressure off other fish. A river full of carp – at river monster size and only a handfull of people chasing them. I was fly fishing the Nepean and I can have a lot of fun with everything from Herring to Bass, and another fly guy visiting came over and asked me what I catch and I told him everything Bass,Carp, Mullet, Herring etc. First reply is “oh no not interested in Carp…”

But if you want to flog your fly gear Carp is a lot of fun and they are much bigger than the Bass.

Anyway revenue from Carp fishing promotion could go towards realistic goals like saving the Maquarie Perch. Or even other research. After 200+ years trying finding some serious study and understanding of even basic things like for example with the Freshwater Herring. Even our knowledge of Estuary Perch is weak and the best academic paper on Bass is from 1983.

River management in general is shocking. Essentially none by the time Councils, State Governments and Federal Government Agencies argue about who is responsible or not responsible for whatever. Look at how well the old English River keeper system has worked over the last thousand or so years. One man (oops person) and his (oops her/they/them) offsider takes an active and intimate role in the daily management of their section of the river. The Barbel numbers are low this year so create a bit more habitat for them. The next year the Pike numbers are getting to high so back off on them etc.

Of course the argument is well, thats not natural. But thats the point, what exactly is natural now? I have fished the entire east coast from Cape York to Western Victoria and I am pretty sure Coke tins and old tires do not grow there naturally. So accept that it is going to be contrived to some degree and start managing things properly.

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